Hancock says 'Happy Eid' and denies lockdown is to stop celebrations

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Hancock says 'Happy Eid' and denies lockdown is to stop celebrations

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has wished the country a ‘Happy Eid’ the day after lockdown measures were brought in across the north of the country.

The measures prevent anyone from mixing with people from another household in gardens, houses and hospitality venues in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Taking to Twitter this morning Mr Hancok said: “I want to wish all my Muslim friends in the UK & around the world a very happy Eid al-Adha.

“This will be a challenging Eid for many, and I am grateful for your continued efforts tackling #coronavirus.”

Eid al-Adha runs from July 30 to August 3 this year and is widely celebrated across the world – marking Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience.

It is marked by gatherings and celebrations traditionally including mass congregations, family parties and the sharing of specially prepared food.

Mr Hancock today denied that the action taken was being aimed at curtailing Eid celebrations.

Asked on BBC’s Today programme whether the measures were announced late on Thursday night to stop Eid celebrations from taking place, he said: “No, my heart goes out to the Muslim communities in these areas because I know how important the Eid celebrations are.

“I’m very grateful to the local Muslim leaders, the imams in fact, across the country who’ve been working so hard to find a way to have Covid-secure celebrations.

“For instance celebrating Eid in parks where there’s more space available and of course outdoors is safer than indoors.”

Eid al-Adha – the festival of sacrifice – follows the completion of the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

It is the second major celebration of the Islamic calendar after Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the month of fasting called Ramadan.

Saima Afzal, a community inclusion activist and Blackburn councillor, said the Government “left it too late” to impose the restrictions.

She said people in the Lancashire town had already been warned against visiting households when it became clear to the council that infection rates were on the rise.

Speaking to PA news agency, she said: “Why did the Government leave it so late? Two hours before Eid, giving them little time to reconfigure.”

She said she understood why the restrictions had to be introduced, stating the virus affected every community.

“The issue for me is the timing, it’s really unfortunate,” she said.

“Doesn’t Matt Hancock see the potential impact two hours before Eid?

“I’m not saying he’s intended it, but why weren’t areas told in advance? They knew where the data was going.

“The lack of clarity for every community, not just Muslims, it’s so last minute.

“It’s going to be hard, with any celebration where people are coming together and share food, we will miss our loved ones more.”

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